Love and Honor


At 76, Japanese writer-director Yoji Yamada is still best known in his homeland for a one-time Guinness Book record-holding series of four dozen films (the Tora-san Series), all with virtually the same plot about a traveling salesman who is unlucky in love. That resolute consistency carries over to Love and Honor, the third leg in Yamada’s melodramatic samurai trilogy (following the Oscar-nominated The Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade). Here again are the familiar feudal class themes and low-ranking samurai protagonist: Newly appointed to be a food tester for a local lord, Shinnojo (Takuya Kimura) eats an out-of-season shellfish and goes blind. He falls into suicidal despair, until a chance to exact revenge upon a head clerk who has bedded his wife leads to the trilogy’s third mano-a-mano showdown. If you’ve seen the others, you’ll know not to expect Zatôichi action in this blind man’s duel; Yamada’s refined Merchant-Ivory approach to the Edo era (slow pace, genteel storytelling, restraint) produces more yawning than fawning. At least the guy’s dependable.